NY attorney general asks banks, utilities to waive late fees because of Buffalo storm

New York's attorney general has asked banks and utilities to waive late payment fees for residents who were affected by the recent storm that dumped as much as 7 feet of snow near Buffalo.

Residents have been through enough and shouldn't have to worry about paying fees because their credit card, utility and housing payments were delayed, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Wednesday.

Some utilities and lenders are giving customers and borrowers a grace period even without the nudge from Schneiderman.

The electric and gas utility NYSEG suspended late-payment fees starting Nov. 25 for its 152,000 customers in Erie and Wyoming counties.

"We had crews out there working during the storm so our folks saw firsthand what people were dealing with," said NYSEG spokesman Clayton Ellis. "This is a courtesy to customers."

Marcia Miller of West Seneca was worried she wouldn't be able to make her car payment after the storm dumped more than 6 feet of snow and prevented mail deliveries. But she called her bank and was given a 10-day grace period.

"I always mail it in before the due date. I explained the situation: I was snowed in, there was no mail," she said. "They were good about it."

Schneiderman also is directing housing counselors and legal services providers to assist residents in resolving insurance claims or issues with contractors. The advisers are part of Schneiderman's "Homeowner Protection Program," which helps residents facing foreclosure, but will now make themselves available to homeowners struggling to recover from the storm.

"New Yorkers pull together during difficult times, and that is why our team of lawyers and housing counselors are ready to help western New Yorkers impacted by this severe snowstorm," he said. "Many families have been hit hard enough by the weather, and that is why we want to make additional resources available to homeowners and consumers in need."

Individuals interested in requesting help can call 1-855-HOME-456 or visit the attorney general's website.

Authorities also are on the look-out for cases of price gouging related to the storm. Schneiderman's office said 58 complaints have been received so far. More than half involved offers to remove snow from roofs or driveways. There have been 12 reports of gouging when it came to groceries and 11 related to towing services.